Monday, February 27, 2012

The Writerly Life

I’ve been working – possibly overworking – my essay on trying  to take care of my father and mother. Tom a friend of mine, critiqued it for me, which was great, but he really wanted me to delve deeper into some of the issues. Excellent advice, really, for what I’m trying to accomplish through writing this essay, but my initial reaction (and my quick, reactionary carry-through) was to delete those parts altogether.

I had come to a resolved point of throwing off the heavy mental mantle I had been carrying around because of what I felt was failure in the endeavor. My father’s dementia and stubbornness for wanting to take care of himself and mom (of striving to drive me off the way he had done with everyone I had been able to watch them when I went shopping) had worn me down and vanquished the good intentions I’d taken to Wyoming with me. I eventually had to leave dad and mom in assisted living, but after a tough time getting beyond that perceived self-failure, I came to terms with it all and was able to shrug that mantle off.

I felt good about the article, because it had as good of an ending as the feelings I’ve been having of myself lately.

Tom pointed out that in rehashing the ordeal I was showing that I hadn’t really had any true catharsis; that I was apparently still harboring resentments. Well, the resolutions I had attained were actually just for the sense of failure I’d felt. I hadn’t been trying to convey that I’d had some sort of  epiphany, some grand shedding of the difficulty of my childhood and a granting of absolution to my parents. Apparently that was what I was giving the impression of with my poetic beginning and ending.

So I guess it’s back to the writing board.


I’m having trouble with this essay partly because I’m actually having trouble really wanting the things I want to want, want to do, or want to experience.Absurd as it sounds, this is the result of being so happy with my life that I’m not just content, I’m complacent. The life I’m living here on the creek is idyllic. I know that’s hard to believe in this era, but it’s true.

A couple of weeks ago Ben and I were shopping in town (one of my least favorite activities in life). I was grinding coffee; a young woman filled a bag and quietly waited for me to finish. I had a couple of bags to go, so I let her grind her single bag first. She asked why I was buying so much coffee and I explained we lived a long way from town and didn’t get there often. In response to a few other questions I told her about the pottery, the surrounding beauty, and the way we just loved to be at home. As she was leaving, she said it sounded idyllic. I laughed and said that, yes, it was. She teased me a bit for my delighted chuckle and said I was one of the lucky ones.

“I suppose I am,” I said.

But our conversation stranded itself in my mind for a couple of days. It seems silly, given the present world of trouble we’re living in, that I could have an idyllic life. But then it also seems silly, in this modern world of convenience and internet connection,  that Ben and I are living the rather antiquated lifestyle we live. Even my mother, when she was here for a visit several years ago, told me how surprised she was that I was a farmer. We do produce and preserve as much of our own food as we can, we gather and chop firewood to keep the place warm, and we avoid going to town as if we were having to take a several day journey horseback to get there. And we lived here for seven years before we got indoor plumbing.

That’s not exactly an ideal many people dream of, yet all this is a big part of why I love my life.

For years I  tried to convince myself that I couldn’t really be this happy. I listened to people telling me how happy I sounded and how idyllic a life I portrayed, then tried to convince them that it wasn’t so great; we were living in poverty after all.

My maternal grandmother, who was a powerful influence on me when I was growing up, had a saturnine opinion of the world. She responded to so much bad news by exclaiming that the world was a terrible, wicked place. I suppose, down deep inside, I felt I should believe her.

The downside of being so happy and complacent, as I mentioned a moment ago, is the lack of drive to make accomplishments. Since I don’t need accomplishments to be happy, I am not terribly enthusiastic to make changes to improve our circumstances. I really WANT to be a writer; the trouble is, unlike most writers and wannabe writers, I don’t have a deep yearning to be an author.

Let me explain. The business world these days, controlled by corporate mentality, doesn’t permit a writer to stay quietly at home and write. They want us all to be pounding the streets, doing interviews, promoting ourselves for having authored a book. That sort of stuff makes me slightly nauseated just thinking about it. I really love good writing and I did decide a while back that I really want to develop my writing, to learn to write to the best of my ability. And, really, the only way to do that is to be able to make at least part of my living at it so I can spend enough time to do it; that means I have to publish, which means I have to be an author. And that, of course, means I have to be public.

The main reason I started this blog was to help start me working, mentally, toward that process. So, I’ll just keep on going. I’ll keep on writing and perfecting, and I’ll soon start submitting. I know I’ll start collecting rejection slips and I know that might signify that I sent it to the wrong place, but it will also mean I need to keep working on my skills and overcoming my self-defeating, self-sabotaging habits.

There are things I want to tell the world, so I have to forget I’m so complacent in my lifestyle.  I will also have to quit deleting the passages I’ve written that need more introspection. I have to be more honest and more open in both non-fiction and fiction. I have benefited from the work of so many other writers that it’s time I show my gratitude and pass some of what I have experienced on.

I may be storming off like a turtle on beach sand and I may keep getting turned around as I try to see everything that is happening around me, but I will keep going.

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